Bob Dylan’s reputation as a counterculture icon has led to the cancellation of his first-ever concerts in China and ultimately forced the legend to call off his tour of Southeast Asia. After completing a 14-date trek through Japan and a show in Seoul, South Korea, last month, Dylan was hoping to extend his tour and perform shows in Beijing and Shanghai, which would have marked his debut shows in China. However, China’s Ministry of Culture rejected those plans, citing Dylan’s past as a voice of change in the ’60s, The Guardian reports.
The Ministry of Culture was likely also influenced by Björk’s controversial actions during a performance in Shanghai in 2008, where she chanted “Tibet! Tibet!” during “Declare Independence.” Since the Björk concert, the Ministry of Culture has become more cautious when considering Western acts, ruling in the aftermath, “Those who used to take part in activities that harm our nation’s sovereignty are firmly not allowed to perform in China.” “What Björk did definitely made life very difficult for other performers. They are very wary of what will be said by performers on stage now,” promoter Jeffrey Wu, whose company set up Dylan’s China dates, told the South China Morning Post.
Because Dylan didn’t receive permission to perform in China, the singer also abandoned plans for shows in Taiwan and Hong Kong. “With Beijing and China ruled out, it was not possible for him just to play concerts in Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan,” Wu said. “The chance to play in China was the main attraction for him. When that fell through everything else was called off.”
With plans to tour China scrapped, Dylan will return to the road May 29th in Athens, Greece to begin a major tour of Europe.